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Working in Construction Management: A Guide

Working on construction sites doesn’t have to mean heavy lifting. There’s a whole world of construction management, which oversees and keeps major projects on-time and running smoothly. 

Learn how to become a construction manager, what type of Construction Management program you should look for and why to pursue this exciting career.

What Does a Construction Manager Do?

Construction managers are sometimes also called general contractors or project managers. They help to ensure that a construction project goes smoothly from start to finish. Construction managers work on many different projects, including the construction of residential, commercial, and public structures, plus roads and bridges. A construction manager typically helps to plan a project, coordinate the work that will be done on the project, manage the budget to ensure that the project’s cost stays on track, and supervise the project’s overall progress. 

There are many detailed tasks essential to keeping a construction project running smoothly, and a construction manager works with many other professionals during a single project. A construction manager might consult with the client to refine design plans and go over the budget. They’ll also work with specialized contractors as well as other specialists, like architects, electricians and stonemasons. Sometimes a construction manager might need to work with lawyers and government officials, like city inspectors, to make sure that a project meets the local regulations and requirements. 

While a construction manager might oversee an entire project on their own, some projects are too large for a single person to manage. For instance, when overseeing the construction of an office building or industrial complex, the lead construction manager will hire other construction managers to help share the workload. Each construction manager typically manages a different aspect or phase of the project, but they’ll also all collaborate with the top-level construction manager to ensure the entire project goes smoothly.1

Typical Day of a Construction Manager

A construction manager’s daily tasks can vary depending on the phase that a construction project is in, but in any one day, a construction manager might:1

  • Prepare cost estimates and compare them to the project’s budget
  • Review contracts and technical information, and relay that information to other professionals working on the project
  • Choose subcontractors, schedule their work, and oversee their progress
  • Work with architects, engineers, and other professionals to keep the project moving forward
  • Review legal requirements and safety codes to ensure the project adheres to all regulations at all stages
  • Identify work problems or emergencies and come up with solutions
  • Update the client with information about the project’s progress and current budget

Why Become a Construction Manager?

Is construction management a good career? Well that depends on many factors. One to consider is the construction manager job outlook. Construction manager employment projections indicate that this is a promising field to pursue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction manager employment is projected to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029.2 This growth is much faster than the average job growth of all occupations. 

Multiple factors contribute to this expected growth. Population and business growth is predicted to increase demand for the construction of new homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings. National infrastructure improvements may also increase the demand for road, bridge, and sewer system construction projects. There’s also increased emphasis on making existing structures more energy efficient, and this could lead to additional construction projects and construction manager employment opportunities.2

Construction Manager Salary

According to the BLS, as of May 2019, construction managers earned a median annual wage of $95,260. Be advised, salary for entry-level positions may be lower than the national average. The median annual wage does vary by industry, and the industries with the highest median annual wages in May 2020 were: 

  • Heavy and civil engineering construction: $98,870
  • Nonresidential building construction: $97,100
  • Specialty trade contractors: $92,710
  • Residential building construction: $85,800

Keep in mind that construction managers may also earn bonuses in addition to their salaries.3

Best Places to Work as a Construction Manager

Geographic location can affect how much you can expect to earn as a construction manager, as well as your employment prospects. According to the BLS as of May 2020, the following are the top-paying states for construction managers:4

STATE HOURLY MEAN WAGE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
New Jersey $70.87 $147,410
New York $65.06 $135,320
Delaware $59.97 $124,730
California $58.43 $121,540
Rhode Island $57.69 $120,000

The BLS reports that the following states offered the highest construction manager employment rates in May 2020:4

STATE EMPLOYMENT EMPLOYMENT PER THOUSAND JOBS
Texas 34,560 2.78
California 32,830 1.89
Florida 23,820 2.71
North Carolina 13,500 3.03
Illinois 13,040 2.16

Construction Management Jobs

There are different types of construction manager jobs that may have slightly different duties. These can include:

  • Concrete Foreman 
  • Construction Area Manager 
  • Construction Foreman 
  • Construction Manager 
  • Construction Services Manager 
  • Construction Superintendent 
  • Job Superintendent 

No matter their title, construction managers often work in multiple locations. They may work in a main office located away from the construction site, or they may work in a field office located right on the construction site. If a construction manager is simultaneously overseeing multiple projects, they may need to travel from site to site, and that may involve travel out of state. Construction managers who are working on projects located in foreign countries typically move to that country temporarily until the project is completed. 

When working on job sites, proper safety procedure training is important. Job sites typically involve uneven ground, noisy equipment, and large machinery, so it can be a distracting environment. Construction manager responsibilities include monitoring these conditions and keeping the crew safe. Construction managers may also need to deal with bad weather conditions when assessing or monitoring a site.5

While a construction manager typically oversees an entire single project, larger-scale projects may require multiple construction managers. In these situations, the top-level construction manager hires and oversees additional managers. Those additional managers may be tasked with overseeing a specific project phase or aspect, ensuring the whole project gets the attention it needs.1

Find Your Path as a Construction Manager

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as a Construction manager. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

Skills for Construction Managers

Construction managers need a wide range of skills and knowledge to be successful. A construction manager needs to be coordinated and have strong monitoring skills to assess performance and make adjustments as necessary. Speaking skills and active listening skills are important, since managers work closely with many other professionals during a single project. An effective manager also needs to be able to motivate and direct people on the job. 

Specific technology skills are also important, since construction managers need to be able to use certain programs. Common computer aided design software includes Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D, Autodesk Revit, and Cadsoft Design/Built. Managers may use data entry software like Microsoft Access. Document management software like Adobe Systems Adobe Acrobat, as well as graphics and photo imaging software like Microsoft Visio are also important. Many construction managers also need to be able to use project management software like HCSS HeavyBid or Microsoft SharePoint to help keep project details organized. 

A great construction manager will also benefit from oral comprehension skills and problem sensitivity that help that manager to identify the presence of potential issues. Both deductive and inductive reasoning are also important. 

Knowledge and skills in certain fields are also important in this profession. Knowledge of building and construction materials, methods, and tools, as well as engineering science and technology are a must-have. Customer and personal service skills will help a project manager ensure that a project meets the client’s needs and expectations. A background in administration and management, and knowledge of principles like leadership technique and resource allocation will also help a construction manager to effectively do their job.6

How to Become a Construction Manager

If you think that becoming a construction manager is the right career for you, the following steps can help you along on your journey.

1. Earn a high school diploma

You will need a high school diploma or equivalent, but beyond just focusing on earning a diploma, you can use your high school course choices to prepare you for your career. Consider taking courses in drafting, business, math, computer science, and in English and Spanish to give you skills that will be valuable on the job.8

2. Gain specialized education

There are multiple paths to becoming a construction manager, but most require that you have some type of construction manager degree. You might consider an associate’s degree or a construction management program. No matter which path you choose, look for an construction manager education opportunity that will help you to develop the specialized skills and knowledge that are important in this field.7

3. Get relevant work experience

Gaining construction experience is important, especially if you don’t pursue a full bachelor’s degree. It’s possible to become a qualified construction manager through only gaining extensive construction experience and there are many construction management degree options. By pursuing an internship and gaining work within the industry, you can reduce your need for on-the-job training and make yourself more appealing to a potential employer.7

4. Consider getting certified

Construction management certification isn’t required, but taking the extra step to get certified can make you more competitive within the field, potentially increasing your chances of getting hired. 

The Construction Management Association of America offers a Certified Construction Manager certification. You will need to have experience in the field and must pass a technical exam. 

The American Institute of Constructors offers an Association Constructor and Certified Professional Constructor certification. You will need to meet all of the institute’s requirements and pass construction exams.7

5. Make the most of on-the-job training

As a new construction manager, you may be initially hired as an assistant. This will give you the opportunity to be supervised by an experienced construction manager who can help introduce you to the industry and to your employer’s way of operating. This training method can last for months or even years, but it gives you a chance to gain valuable experience so you’re well-prepared to step into the construction manager role.7

Do I Need a Construction Management Degree?

A construction management degree isn’t required, but more employers are seeking out candidates who have relevant education that prepares them for this career.7 Earning a construction management degree provides you with a foundation in the skills and knowledge that you will need in this field. Taking the time to earn a degree can also demonstrate your motivation and dedication to this career, potentially helping you to stand out from other applicants. 

What to Look for in a Construction Management School

The following qualities can help you to choose the construction management school that’s right for you.

Accreditation—A school that is accredited has proven that the program you’ll be taking meets certain quality and rigor standards. Accreditation is voluntary, but it can indicate to both you and potential employers that you’ve completed a quality program.10

Instructor quality— Instructor quality can influence the value that you get from a program. Instructors who are not only experienced in the construction field, but who also have teaching experience are more likely to enhance a program’s quality and help you get the most out of your education than inexperienced instructors.

Cost—While your construction management education is an important investment in your career, it’s always important to evaluate the cost of each program you’re considering. Be sure to research any financial aid options that can help you to pay for the program. Weighing the program’s cost against the salary you’re likely to make as a construction manager can also help you to determine if the program is the right option for you. 

How Long is a Construction Management Program?

Construction Management programs vary in length, and pursuing the program on a full-time or part-time will also affect its completion time. You can complete SJVC’s Construction Management program and earn your associate of science degree in as few as 14 months, so you can progress to the next step of your career more quickly.9

Can I Attend Construction Management School Online?

There are online construction management degree programs. SJVC’s Construction Management program is offered online or in-person at the Ontario campus. An online degree program offers scheduling flexibility and is often an ideal choice if you don’t live close to a school’s campus.

Kickstart Your Career as a Construction Manager

Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become a Construction Manager with SJVC.

What Will I Learn in SJVC’s Construction Management Courses?

In SJVC’s Construction Management program, you’ll learn the skills and knowledge that you’ll use daily in your new career. You’ll take a variety of courses on topics like the computer applications and software packages used in the industry, strategies that can help you to schedule and plan projects, and best practices when estimating and bidding on commercial construction projects.9

Construction Management Classes

SJVC’s construction management classes provide a comprehensive and detailed foundation for your career. You’ll take the following classes during your program: 

  • Computer Applications in Construction Management
  • Construction Materials
  • Design Theory
  • Blueprint and Plan Reading
  • Construction Business, Accounting, and Financial
  • Management Construction Methods
  • Scheduling and Control
  • Labor and Construction Laws
  • Quantity, Survey, Estimating and Bidding for Construction
  • Construction Management Supervision
  • Construction Project Management and Contract Documents
  • Competitive Business Presentation and Strategic Communications
  • Composition and Reading – Part A
  • Composition and Reading – Part B
  • Course Algebra – Part A
  • Course Algebra – Part B
  • Introduction to the Natural Sciences
  • Ethics
  • General Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology

Prepare for a Career in Construction Management With San Joaquin Valley College

SJVC’s Construction Management program can be a key step in preparing you for an exciting and rewarding career in construction management. You’ll develop key skills and acquire knowledge that are the foundation of a construction management career. Whether you decide to pursue an internship, gain work experience, or get certified after earning your degree, this program can help you to get started on your career path. 

Available both online and in person, the Construction Management program can be completed in just 14 months. Contact us today to get more information and be one step closer to becoming a construction manager. 

Construction Manager FAQ

How long does it take to become a construction manager?

There are many paths to becoming a construction manager, and each will take different amounts of time. Some people acquire decades of work experience in construction before becoming a construction manager. Others may pursue an associate degree or bachelor degree, then gain work experience and become certified. When first hired as a construction manager, you may complete months or years of on-the-job training before fully moving into the role.7

Do I need a degree to be a construction manager?

Most employers will require a construction manager to have at least a high school diploma, but beyond that, there aren’t hard-and-fast education requirements. More employers are requiring bachelor degrees in a construction-related field. However, it’s also possible to prepare for a construction manager position by combining an associate degree or construction program with work experience, internships, and certifications.7

Can I work in construction management with an associate degree?

An associate degree provides a great foundation for construction management. It is possible to earn an associate degree, supplement it with work experience and/or a certification, and work in construction management.7

How much do construction managers make in California?

In May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that construction managers in California earn an hourly mean wage of $61.56, and an annual mean wage of $128,050.4 Keep in mind that salaries can vary depending on the type of industry you work in. For instance, heavy and civil engineering construction tends to pay more than residential building construction.3 Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average.

Is construction management a good major?

Construction management can be a rewarding major, preparing you for a career that has promising employment rates and that offers high salaries. With more opportunities projected to emerge for construction managers over the coming decade, this is an excellent field to explore.2

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